For The New Trainers

Every trainer and facilitator remembers his or her first class. I sure remember mine. I was ‘tri-facilitating’ a three-day program with two other trainers. To say I was scared to death is an understatement. I had two sections to present. I studied and studied and studied. I really thought I was ready. And then I lost my voice. Really!

The good news: there were only 7 people in the class. Talk about your teacher-to-student ratio! The bad news is, I went way over on my time, I used orange markers on the flipchart that no one could see, and I squeaked most of the time.

Yes, it was an entirely memorable experience…one I’d love to forget! My co-facilitators were very encouraging and kind to me…they coached me and told me what I did well and what I might do differently. I still remember their advice so many years later.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of conducting probably hundreds of training classes—most good, some great, a few disastrous—and have worked with some outstanding facilitators and trainers. I learned from some of the best. I learned how to have the class teach the class for you, how to think on my feet, and how to give control of the class to the class… without ever really giving up control. Ask me about that sometime.

This week, I’m facilitating two “train-the-trainer” classes for brand-new trainers. I’ve been reflecting on all the advice I’ve given and been given over the years. Some of the best of it boils down to two words: Prepare and Relax.

Prepare. You certainly need to prepare the content. That’s a given. You should also prepare by getting rest before the class, making sure your training area is set up properly, and having all your of props ready to go. You prepare by doing your homework: learn about the learners, their needs, and their issues. And you prepare by getting yourself mentally ready for the challenge of teaching others.

That’s the first part, and it’s a lot of work. Give yourself enough time and you’re halfway there.

Relax. I think that’s the hardest part for most trainers. Who can relax with all those eyes on you? Who can relax when you drop your notes? Fumble for the right words? Lose your place?

First of all, remember to breathe. So many new trainers I work with hold their breath. Lack of oxygen is not conducive to anything worth pursuing!

As the class unfolds, you’ll realize you’re relaxed when all of the sudden you see that your learners are ‘getting it.’ They’re working, you’re coaching; they’re asking questions, you’re facilitating discussion. You forget all about being nervous. You’re in the groove. You’re having fun.

You’re a trainer. It’s a seriously cool job. It’s plain hard work if you want to be good at it. By the way, your learners expect you to be, at a minimum, good. Exceed their expectations. Be a great trainer.

Prepare. Relax. Celebrate.

See ya ’round the block!